RIS Reveals 2012 Mobile App Award Finalists

Does it seem as if retail mobile initiatives are moving at a rapid (some would say frantic) pace? It's not your imagination: they are. The eight finalists for the 2012 RIS Mobile App of the Year Awards provide an illustration of just how quickly mobile technology is changing and advancing in the industry.

Retailers as varied as Lowe's, Guess, Sears, Cabela's and REI are using mobile devices for store, enterprise and customer-facing functions that were barely on the industry's radar one short year ago – and that are already providing benefits today. Innovative uses for mobile devices, particularly tablets, are multiplying as retailers distribute them to store associates and managers, field and district managers and (presumably) their top executives. And of course, consumers' enthusiasm for mobility continues unabated.

A few factoids from recent RIS research reveal just how fast the mobile merry-go-round is spinning:
· More than half (a total of 57.2%) of responding retailers update their mobile apps every three months, or more frequently: 42.9% every two to three months, and 14.3% every month.
· 50% of consumers return to the retailer's app at least once a week
· Mobile app budgets are on the rise among nearly three-quarters of surveyed retailers
· Among those with growing budgets, the average increase is 50%

Given these ongoing changes, RIS has realigned the categories for this year's Mobile App of the Year Awards, which will be presented at the upcoming RIS Retail Technology Conference, April 11-13 at the Ritz-Carlton Grande Lakes in Orlando, FL. Nominated apps were judged by the publication's editors and mobility expert Chris Hazelton of The 451 Group, who will be speaking on the impact of tablets on retail at RTC.

Following are the two top-scoring apps in each category:

Category: Enterprise Excellence
Lowe's mobileDART: Store managers use this app from MicroStrategy to monitor store performance, including details related to product departments and categories, inventory and payroll. District managers can also use the app to more effectively manage their assigned stores, immediately navigating from the home screen to a top-down view of all the stores in their district.

REI: The Starmount Engage Mobile Selling Assistant allows store associates to provide customers with a more consultative sale. They can not only process transactions but also sell memberships, access loyalty data, redeem REI dividends and pick up merchandise that was ordered online in the store. REI will roll out the application, used on Apple iPod Touch devices, to all its stores by the middle of 2012.

Category: Innovation
Guess Engagement and M-Commerce App: Using MicroStrategy's social media analytics products, this app integrates Guess' loyalty/CRM data with Facebook data to create customer-friendly m-commerce and CRM mobile applications that push out personalized content, offers and perks to targeted customer segments. The app also provides shoppers with the ability to virally share offers, news and product recommendations on their social networks.

Guess Retailing App for iPad: Guess is using the VeriFone GlobalBay Retailing App for iPad to deploy multiple customer engagement apps, along with developing and presenting staff training content. The iPads, mounted on rolling stands or carried by associates, serve as both self-service kiosks and assisted selling tools.

Category: Shopping
Cabela's: The retailer's mobile-enabled website and iPhone and Android apps help consumers with in-store purchase decisions by providing barcode and QR code scanning features that lead shoppers to detailed product descriptions, customer ratings/reviews and product videos. The retailer also gains valuable insights into how customers buy and what they are looking for.

Pacific Sunwear: The app uses the VeriFone GlobalBay Retailing App for iPad's Look Book functionality and rich media content, allowing associates to walk customers through different outfit combinations and suggest products based on customer purchasing preferences. Using the app's Web-based content management console, Pacific Sunwear has integrated QR codes into the app to deliver content directly to the smartphones of consumers who scan these codes on the iPad's screen.

Category: Store Operations
C. Wonder: This retailer, which opened its stores in 2011, has a 100% mobile POS system, using no traditional POS terminal hardware. Using the VeriFone GlobalBay Mobile Point of Sale, the retailer equips its sales associates with iPod Touch systems communicating wirelessly with C. Wonder's custom ERP solution.

Sears SHC Connect: This mobile hybrid application, delivered on ruggedized iPods and iPads, serves store associates in 450 Sears and Kmart locations as the single point of entry for tasks, applications, information and reports. Employees get immediate access to their daily task lists and internal social media, and store stats such as sales performance are integrated with WFM tools. AirWatch provides the app solution plus mobile device management functionality.

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